One of the best things about living in North East Wales is the fact that we have access to miles and miles of awesome coastline. With countless adventurous activities to keep our mouths grinning and our adrenaline pumping, we really are one truly lucky bunch of people. Despite having previously turned my hand to a plethora of adventurous activities from across the interest spectrum, one thing that I had never tried was kitesurfing. Until now. Here’s how I got on kitesurfing in North East Wales…
Kitesurfing, in the scheme of things, is a relatively new sport. Although we clever humans have been harnessing the power of the wind to propel us across stretches of water for thousands of years, it is only more recently that we’ve turned our attention away from practical travel and begun to focus on the sheer joy to be had from being whisked around by nature’s greatest unseen power.
What’s more, from speaking to a few kitesurfing experts and enthusiasts, it seems that our little corner of Wales has a pretty unique and special set of natural features that make it the perfect place to get into the sport. Kitesurfing in North East Wales is special because Rhyl proudly boasts two huge tidal lagoons. Two huge natural sandbanks, located just off shore,protect you from the chop by creating lake-like circumstances with each outgoing and incoming tide. Crucially, this means that for beginners like me, you don’t have the added distraction and difficulty of fighting the tide and the waves. Furthermore, unusually, Rhyl has an entire stretch of beach and water that is rock-free. Again, as a beginner trying my hand at the sport for the first time, this is a really important safety consideration and should provide a hell of a lot of reassurance to anyone who fancies giving it a go anytime soon. Very few places anywhere can offer this combination of natural features!
So, on a fairly mild December morning just before Christmas,and with a few little butterflies in my stomach – fluttering around thinking what the hell they’d let themselves in for – I took the coastal road drive to Rhyl and hooked up with Simon from Pro Kitesurfing to take my first steps into the world of kitesurfing. They won’t be my last.
Nestled right next to Rhyl’s famous Pavilion Theatre, the first thing that I noticed was that Pro Kitesurfing have one enviable position. Located right on the waterfront overlooking the lagoons that I would spend the next three hours playing around in, they’ve taken a building that, until just a few short years ago was, at least partially, a public toilet, and transformed it into a warm and welcoming café, bar and classroom. One thing that really struck me was that every single person who came through the door was greeted on first name terms with a hug or embrace.
The other thing that struck me was the age range of the people both frequenting the café and those actually kitesurfing on the day. While there was a 10-year-old lad having his very first lesson on the same day that I, too, was kitesurfing in North East Wales for the very first time, there was also a older guy who made me look like a spring chicken, enthusiastically throwing himself into his wetsuit and making his way out onto the water. I genuinely hope that I have still have his energy and thirst for adventure when I’m his age. Fair play to Simon and his team: they’ve created more than just a kitesurfing school; they’ve created a community hub where people of all ages come to meet, chat, make plans and, of course, kitesurf. It seems kitesurfing in North East Wales is so much more than just an awesome sport. It’s a passionate and engaging community with a demographic that pushes back the stereotypes of a lot of extreme sports.
After an extensive classroom session where we covered all of the basic principles and safety instructions, I donned my winter wetsuit and hit the beach. For a guy like me who had no kite flying experience, never mind kitesurfing experience, there was a lot to take in but, through regular questioning and support, I never felt out of my depth. After pumping up the kite and learning how to walk with it and prepare it for flight on the beach, it was time to get wet.
As I mentioned earlier, Kitesurfing in North East Wales is perfect for beginners due to the tidal lagoons that Rhyl benefits from. Starting in the smaller one, closest to the beach, I first of all had to prove that I could get the kite off the water and into the sky – and no it’s not as easy as it sounds! My biggest problem was that I was trying to wrestle the kite using too much of my body power to get it off the ground. According to Simon this is a pretty natural thing for adult beginners to do (along with my sticky out butt that he kept telling me to push back in). Unfortunately, in a wrestle between human and nature, nature will always win. The more impatient I got and the more I resorted to power, the more I got battered by the kite. When I finally felt comfortable enough to take my eyes off the kite, I started to gently feel my way and began to steer it rather than pull it. It’s crazy, but essentially you can use one finger to steer it. I just had to get over the feeling that I needed to hang on for dear life.
Later in the session I was taught how to do a body drag, which is essential to recover your board. Just as it sounds, it is essentially using your belly like the hull of a boat to propel you through the water as you steer the kite alternately between the power zones of 10 and 2 (as in the hands of a clock as imagined in the sky). This was great fun and, despite failing to steer right on one go, propelling myself head first into a sandbank, and eating a lot of sea water, I really felt that I’d made a lot of progress in a short space of time.
After a few more water-based activities, my lesson time had drawn to a close. I’d been battered, chucked up in the air, swallowed my yearly intake of salt in one afternoon, and was pretty damn tired. It was, however, utterly amazing and I’d recommend it to anyone. We are so lucky that kitesurfing in North East Wales seems to have such a natural home, not only in terms of its unique set of natural characteristics, but also in terms of the awesome community hub, complete with café, bar, wood burner and familiar faces, that Pro Kitesurfing have crafted over the years. Get yourself down there soon. You won’t regret it.
As ever, for more ideas of great things to do here in North East Wales browse our blog and check out the official North East Wales tourism website.